Getting Fit for the Top – Part I: Physical Fitness is “A Contributing Factor, Not a Symptom” of Success

September 6th, 2011 by under Best Lessons Outside of B-School, Leadership and Managing Human Capital, Professional Development. No Comments.

Source: Fitness Business Conference
This is Part I in a three-part series about how Smith MBAs use fitness and sports to develop the attitudes, discipline, and habits of effective business leaders.

At 5AM, Joe McDonald lay in his bed drifting dangerously back to sleep and listened to the cars outside his window drive through the pouring rain.  He didn’t want to meet A.P., his
fellow Smith MBA, to go running that morning, but Joe knew that if the roles were reversed, he would be annoyed if he ventured out and his running buddy failed to show.

The thought passed briefly, and Joe forced himself up from the comfort of the bed to meet for his regular morning workout.

To Joe, an inactive duty Army Captain who has been involved in multiple sports since high school, fitness is about making a commitment to oneself and to others.  “Fitness is a
lifestyle, not a diet,” he says.

Getting Fit for the Top

Recently a number of articles have highlighted the role of fitness and sport in the lives of top executives from the world’s largest multinationals.  Paul Polman, CEO of
Unilever, gets up at 6AM every morning to run on the treadmill in his London office.  Polman says he runs because it gives him time to reflect on work and the day ahead while “maintaining his stamina for the ultra-competitive business world.”   In 2009, Polman raised $100,000 for the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust when he ran the Boston Marathon in 4:00:06.

Another regular marathon runner, N. Chandrasekaran, CEO and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services, also advocates fitness as a way to hone the mind and body.  TCS employees following his example have become one of the largest teams running the Mumbai Marathon.

At Kraft Foods, CEO Irene Rosenfeld credits playing volleyball, field hockey, softball, and basketball with giving her the drive and discipline to set high goals and achieve them.  “I’d like to think I could have become chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods even if I hadn’t been an athlete,” she says, “but I truly believe I am a more focused, more competitive, more successful leader as a result of my experience in sports.”

Joe McDonald, Smith MBA 2012

Joe McDonald

Smith MBA 2012

Summer Internship: Senior Associate Intern, PwC

Regular Workout: 5-7 days per week; Cross-Fitness, Running, Rock Climbing, Hiking

Sports Played: IM Men’s Football, IM Coed Football, MBA Softball

Endogenous to Success

The personal fitness achievements of these business leaders are admirable in their own right and Joe is quick to point out that practicing physical fitness is “a contributing factor, not a symptom” of their success as business leaders.

Over the next two weeks, The Value Proposition is profiling the role of fitness in the lives of Smith MBAs and how they actively apply the attitudes, discipline, and habits of fitness to the business world:

Part I: Getting Fit for the Top; Joe McDonald

Part II: Manage Yourself, Mange Others, Build Teams; Narda Ipakchi

Part III: Personal Development; A.P. Patel